Of course your Hospitals instruments are clean

Tribble-like amyloid plaques of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease acquired from eating prion-infected beef. Credit: Sherif Zaki; MD; PhD and Wun-Ju Shieh; MD; PhD; MPH CD



Summary:  This article is probably the scariest one you will ever read in your entire life and you may already be infected but wont know it for a decade or more. Although we spoke very little of prions this semester this sinister rogue protein is 100 % fatal in every case to date. Prions are proteins that are miss folded and have the ability cause other proteins to miss fold likewise. Most people recall the outbreaks of the so call MAD COW formally known as Creutzfeldt-jakob Disease and as soon as we forgot we ate hamburgers again but ingestion is not the only way to get a rogue prion. Prions once attached to surgical instruments are not killed by autoclave or harsh chemicals and can be passed on to the next patient. The article talks about several cases of such transmissions and the fact that the new CDC guidelines say to simple destroy the instruments after surgery. You can see how problematic this is when a patient is asymptomatic and a disease that can take up to a decade to manifest.

Connections:  In class we talked a lot about how to kill microbes with heat, pressure, and chemicals. It’s terrifying to think bleach wont kill but that’s kind of the point of this article, but prions are not really alive anyway just a rogue proteins waiting to strike.

Critical analysis:   I love this article and wish it would make the cable news networks but thats unlikely unless the D man tweets about it. Although the article is not in a   journal but more of a fun to read type magazine, they do have a citation from the ” Acta Neuropathologica Communications” in which the journal article was   published.  

Question:  How comfortable are you to have your next surgical procedure ?


4 Comments for “Of course your Hospitals instruments are clean”



This is a fascinating article that forces us to reconsider what sterile means. I would say that this does not make me very uncomfortable to have surgery as the odds of contracting a dangerous prion are slim and usually the benefit of surgery far outweighs the risk. Still, it does make me consider the surgeries I’ve had and wonder if I haven’t already contracted a deadly prion.

John Pierce


I have to agree reading this article makes you feel pretty helpless in a there’s not much you can do kind of way. It did seem a lot of the scarier points that were made however inferred heavily to theories about prions and alluded to the fact that not much is known about some of the mechanisms that make them so hard to kill. Answering your question, I would say that this definitely is hard to think about if you are getting any kind of surgery. Even if it was perfectly successful I would still have the gnawing worry this dormant prion could become active and quickly ruin my life and their isn’t anything they know that can stop it!



Prions have simultaneously freaked me out and fascinated me since I first heard about them. I think the article did a pretty good job presenting the information, even if it was a bit more doomsday than it probably had to be. I agree with your analysis that this probably won’t be picked up by major news outlets. Fortunately I haven’t had to get surgery yet in my life, and I’d like to avoid it if necessary anyway. I do like the idea of disposable surgery equipment to keep everything sterile.



Jimmy, this article was super interesting and scary. What interested me the most was that there could be a posibility that Alzheimer’s is actaully a contagious disease. In response to your question; this article was definitely be in the back of my mind the next time I visit a hospital. Hopefully the practice of just disgarding instuments becomes more common.

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